Page 6 PONOKA NEWS
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Opinion Time to step up In six months, In Ponoka, we’re Ponoka will have elected likely to see a few new a new mayor and counfaces around the council cillors. What are you table this fall, especially planning to do about it? if councillors Doug Gill Mayor Larry Henand Rick Bonnett run kelman, who has been for mayor — that opens on council so long he reup a seat. For some members when Ponoka councillors, the job was thriving, has stated has lost its luster after he will not seek re-elecseveral terms, and for George Brown tion. Although he has others it’s just not what Off the Record been acclaimed the they thought it would be last few terms that now when they were elected throws the election for three years ago. Being a mayor wide open to challengers. councillor is a frustrating job and it’s When people who talk about mu- easy for someone who’s used to benicipal politics gather to talk about ing the boss at home or at work to feel what’s wrong with municipal politics, like a cog in a bureaucratic wheel that they toss out all kinds of names of turns ever so slowly. Councillors who people they would like to see on coun- get elected on a platform of change cil, people who have threatened to run and progress often find after one term for council, and people who should be that they have just perpetuated the starun off council. tus quo. It’s not as easy as it sounds to elect Councillors with more than three seven people whose vision for the next terms of service should either run for four years jibes with yours. Get the the big chair or get out of the way. If phonebook out and try it. (Not the big the community is to advance, it needs yellow one, the little one the Ponoka fresh ideas and the revitalization a new Kinsmen Club publishes and is availgeneration of leaders can provide. able at our office for the low, low price Residents deserve local governof $2.) Typically the best young minds ment that is willing to listen to their are busy carving out their niche in the concerns and their suggestions. That’s business world, commuting to work a cornerstone of democracy. Mubecause there aren’t enough good jobs in Ponoka. They’re trying to raise a nicipal government has more direct family and are already knee-deep in influence on the everyday lives of their volunteer commitments to coach- citizens than either the provincial or ing hockey, passing the plate Sunday federal government. You expect a lot from your local mornings or bringing juice and orange government but are you prepared to wedges to their kids’ soccer games. Municipal politics has become a put in a lot of time and effort over the middle manager’s or retired person’s next four years to improve the quality game; they’re the one’s who can meet of life in your community? Nomination day for the fall election is Sept. the time commitment. Finding county councillors is 16. That gives you about five months just as tough — cows don’t milk to get up to speed on what town counthemselves on the second and fourth cil or county council has been up to. Tuesdays of the month and the canola You don’t have to understand mill doesn’t harvest itself in the fall when rates, off-site levies, municipal decouncillors typically attend conven- velopment plans and debentures right away to be considered a good canditions and get started on their budgets. For some, but not most, the stipend date for office. Tonight, April 24 at 7 p.m., take might be attractive. Mayor Henkelman earned about $30,000 in 2012; the pay the first step. The Ponoka County and for councillors depends on how many Town Taxpayers Association is meetcommittee meetings they attend, how ing at the county office for a Vision many babies they kiss and how many Ponoka 2013 brainstorming session. Go see what being a municipal ribbons they cut. (Few, as we seem to be losing more businesses than we government leader is all about. Servare gaining). Town councillors’ sala- ing as a municipal councillor is often ries and benefits ranged in 2012 from a thankless job, but really, somebody’s $13,000 to $18,000. gotta do it.
Battle for Burma at crossroads Last month, as the anti-Muslim violence in Burma spread from Rakhine state in western Burma to the central Burmese city of Meiktila, Aung San Suu Kyi sat among the generals on the reviewing stand as the Burmese army marched past on Armed Forces Day. She is seen as a saint by many people — but she didn’t say anything about Meiktila, where at least 40 people were killed and 12,000 made homeless. She hasn’t condemned the far greater violence against the Muslim Rohingyas of Rakhine state during the past year either but there she had at least the flimsy excuse that this group is portrayed by the military regime as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The military regime even revoked their Burmese citizenship in 1982 — and they have never got it back. The claim that the Rohingyas are foreigners is a despicable lie — the first written mention of Rohingyas in Rakhine dates back to 1799 — but Aung San Suu Kyi didn’t say that. She just murmured, “We have to be very clear about what the laws of citizenship are and who are entitled to them.” Meiktila was different. The Muslims of Meiktila are not Rohingya and there is no question about their Burmese citizenship. There is a large military base in Meiktila and yet for two days the army did not intervene to protect the Muslims. And once again, Aung San Suu Kyi did not condemn what was happening. There is a long game being played in Burma. The officer who launched a democratic transition after he became president in 2011, General Thein Sein, seems willing to relinquish the military’s absolute control of the country after 50 years in power — but he certainly intends to retain a major role for the army in the country’s politics. One reason is that his fellow generals would overthrow him if he did not protect them from fu-
Gwynne Dyer Guest Columnist
ture prosecution for their past crimes. Another is the army is obsessed with maintaining Burma’s unity. Only two-thirds of the country’s 60 million people are actually ethnic Burmese. All around the frontiers are large ethnic minorities — Shan, Karen, Mon, Kachin — most of which have fought against the centralizing policies of the military dictatorship in the past. The military don’t believe a strictly civilian government would be tough to hold the country together, so they have no intention of giving up power completely. As things stand now, the military’s candidates will be simply wiped out in the 2015 elections. In last year’s byelections, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won 43 out of 44 parliamentary seats at stake. So the army has to find some way to make itself more popular politically and the obvious way is to position itself as the defender of Burmese unity against treacherous minorities. There is no doubt the army is now complicit in anti-Muslim violence in Burma. The military are clearly hoping that Aung San Suu Kyi will speak out in defence of the Muslim Burmese, and thereby lose her popular support among the highly nationalistic majority. Knowing this, she has chosen to remain silent, presumably thinking that all this can be fixed after she wins the 2015 election. This is almost certainly a mistake. At some point in the next two years, Aung San Suu Kyi is going to have to decide which way she wants to go. Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.
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April 24, 2013 edition of the Ponoka News